A Primer on Pirates

There are an increasing number of questions about what is piracy. This is a brief primer to get the reader started on the road of what piracy may be. As you read, consider the US capture of a Somali pirate in January and how strategy, tactics, and global affairs fit into the game of Risk.

A starter read is the United Nation’s Atlas of the Oceans portal is Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea.

A better, up to date read is from Tech Central Station – Un-Jolly Rogers (16 Nov 05), with highlights below, emphasis added.

The
War on Terror features counter-pirate operations. Singapore’s Internal
Security Department told me in 2002 that the difference between
battling pirates and stopping terrorists is often slight. The Straits
of Malacca, located between Singapore and Indonesia, is a prime terror
target. The strait is jammed with container ships and oil tankers.

In
fall 2001, a CENTCOM officer and I explored several "ship assault"
scenarios in the straits. One scenario had the plotscape of a novel,
with Indonesian or Malaysian pirates helping al-Qaida operatives hijack
a tanker. Spilling a million barrels of crude creates an eco-disaster.
Sinking the tanker drives maritime insurance rates sky-high.

In
June 2005, I received two briefings from CENTCOM naval officers on
coalition naval operations off Africa’s Somali coast and in the Red
Sea. Chasing pirates is a key mission. Stopping piracy protects African
and Arab fishermen and shippers, so it’s good politics. There’s also
little doubt that al-Qaida has paid local pirates to smuggle personnel
and weapons.

Naval
patrols off Somalia, however, didn’t deter last week’s audacious — and
unsuccessful — pirate assault on the cruise liner Seabourn Spirit.
Somali pirates, riding in small boats, attacked with rocket-propelled
grenades and automatic weapons. The liner’s captain and crew maneuvered
their ship, using it as a weapon — it’s big, and it generates a
massive wake. The liner also employed a directional "parabolic audio
boom-box." The non-lethal "sonic weapon" emitted an eardrum-shattering
sound. The frustrated pirates retreated.

The
Somali attack generated international headlines. Though international
monitors recorded 259 "piratical incidents" in the first nine months of
this year, piracy receives very little media coverage.

The spike in media interest may give Jack Gottschalk and Brian Flanagan a belated bestseller. Their "Jolly Roger With an Uzi: The Rise and Threat of Modern Piracy,"
published by the Naval Institute Press in 2000, documented the rise of
"new piracy," to include smuggling and maritime scams, as well as
terrorists operating at sea.
Gottschalk
and Flanagan identify three "requirements" for piracy, which apply to
Viking pirate raiders as well as contemporary Somali sea thieves:

1)
Pirates prowl waterways where the targets are lucrative.

2) "The
geographic area where pirates prey must be one in which the risk level
of detection is acceptable."

3) If possible, pirates have "safe havens"
where they can "hide, seek repairs and obtain supplies."

Combating
piracy takes good intelligence. The authors also offer this warning:
Piracy "has never been reduced through any process of negotiation."
Historically, only armed force suppresses pirates.

With the impact on commerce and security clear, it would be interesting to investigate why piracy has not achieved greater prominance in the news. It seems to have all the necessary attributes, except, perhaps, a perceived unitary backer. While "Islamic Terrorism" is perceived to be part of the Us vs Them scenario described by so many, mostly notably and unfortunately the President, there is no single Chief Pirate, Chief Propagandist Pirate, or ideological thread to build a fascinating singular story around. Is it possible the cruise ship attack was a lure to allow the TopCat mission? Or was it an chance opportunity?

 

Is TopCat really in “mobilization”?

From Karthryn Cramer comes a tasty bit of news that the BBC wasn’t actually wrong when it said Top Cat Marine Security was in a “mobilisation phase” (UK spelling). From Ms Kathryn Cramer:

[a] company that builds boats identical to Top Cat’s seems to have set up shop in Panama

Panama is nice place to hide. A commentator on Kathryn’s site says Casini, if it is Top Cat, can’t hide in Panama because ITAR can still reach Pete, he being a US citizen and all. I don’t think that is why he’s hidingout. The US State Department’s "cease & desist" is still a fuzzy red herring to me until I actually see something. The more I ponder this, the more it seems USG was involved. As I said in the past, somebody should have been fired for selecting Top Cat Marine security as cover. More to come for sure.

Technorati Tags: Panama, TopCat, Somalia, Casini

Djibouti Sues France

From Opinio Juris comes news Dijibouti, where our Marines have an counter-terrorism base and are practicing the a real campaign of public diplomacy (see CT in the Horn and Revisiting the Roosevelt Doctrine).

[T]he Republic of Djibouti has filed an application with the International Court of Justice against France alleging France violated its treaty obligations to provide judicial assistance in a Djibouti criminal investigation.

This looks like a fairly tedious and unimportant case. The only
interesting aspect (to me, anyway) is whether France refuses to accept
the ICJ’s jurisdiction. France famously withdrew from the compulsory
jurisdiction of the ICJ back in 1996 (those unilateralist Frenchies, so
disrespectful of international courts!) and this case can only go
forward with France’s consent. If France refuses to accept ICJ
jurisdiction, even here in this fairly minor case, it will be a slap at
the ICJ’s authority and credibility.

“Foreign Friends” financing private company off Somali Waters?

An interesting item was on the BBC News website about the Somali coast being the most dangerous coast in the world, along with a recent Naval War College article (Aug 2005) by a professor at the National Defense College of the Philippines reiterated future if not present links and partnerships between terrorism and piracy, suggests the (obvious) point the attempted cruiseship hijacking that was thwarted by a military grade counter-measure (which was on a civilian vessel for what reason? isn’t mil grade hardware illegal?) had more to do with terrorism than piracy. Even it was piracy, it would likely lead to terrorism following any line of logical reasoning.

The BBC item included a quote from the Somali minister for Planning
and International Cooperation, "Abdi Rizak". Dr. Abdirizak Jurile,
apparently referencing the TopCat Marine Security contract for US$55m,
told the BBC New website a contract with a private US security company
was "in the mobilisation phase". The BBC News item was posted 5 January
2005, but a cease & desist order (and here on Kathryn Cramer’s site) was allegedly in the works one month ago.

What does the good Doctor’s mean when he says a contract with an American company, financed by "foreign friends," is in the "mobilization phase"? True, it takes time to move equipment and personnel into the area, but are we still talking about TopCat? Who was financing TopCat? The US$55m cost of the contract requires Congressional approval beyond State Department approval (or rubber stamping). See the Somalia / Horn of Africa category on this site and start at the bottom for background and other discussion on this.

First, who is the doctor? According to the former Governor of the Central Bank of Somalia, Dr Abdirizak Jurile has been controlling Transitional Federal Government (TFG) funds "without accountability, transparency and parliamentary oversight". The former Governor, Mr. Mohamud M Uluso, also alleges Dr Abdirizak has opposed rectifying the control issues Mr Uluso highlights. The timing of Mr Uluso’s dismissal, 24 September 2005, and the cruise ship hijacking & subsequent TopCat contract  are tempting to link, but can they? The removal of Mr Uluso was unconstitutional and unlawful. He was removed by Presidential Decree and not by approval by the Council of Ministers as required. Mr Uluso’s allegations surrounding his dismissal very interesting:                      

In addition, the allegation of disobeying order from the Prime Minister, Prof Ali M Gedi [see Marathon Oil / Range Resources and TopCat / Ogaden for more on Prime Minister Gedi] is baseless and preposterous. The President of the Republic, whose responsibility is to ascertain accusations concerning government officials through due process, did not offer me the opportunity for rebuttal on the false allegation made against me. Aside, the Governor of the CB has the obligation and duty to refuse orders contrary to law from the Prime Minister.

Furthermore, the Central Bank Act establishes the term of office of the Governor in order to protect him from such abuse of power, illegal removal on baseless accusations, and to let him fulfill his duty with integrity, independence  and accountability. The claim that an official can be removed by who appointed him has no legal basis and it is erroneous belief. TFG is subject to the Transitional Federal Charter, the 1960 Constitution and all democratic laws passed before 1969.

There may have been differences of opinions or expectations on the issues briefly described in the annex such as printing new currency, management of government funds, opening of accounts in foreign countries, role of the Central Bank, opening of Central Bank Office in Jowhar, and preparation of government budget.

Mr Uluso continues and requests international support to investigate his dismissal. The charges he makes are substantial and indicative of attempts to establish a properly functioning government without corruption.

So, where is the money coming from? Still no idea but perhaps supplemental financing for natural resource contracts? There were rumors Europeans would be pitching in some bucks but those have evaporated like Peter Casini. Curious.

Incidently, since 27 December 2005, one incident, without loss, was reported to the International Chamber of Commerce  on 2 January 2006: the three speedboats tailing a tanker in the Gulf of Aden.

 

Kathryn Cramer: Top Cat Marine Security Has an Executive Level

In an effort to keep information fresh, from Kathryn Cramer’s blog on TopCat Marine Security:

We had our differences and I’m no longer associated with Peter Casini, TCMS, Cobra Boats, Topcat Design or any other Casini enterprise.

It seems that "Bacehlor #3" in an earlier post by Kathryn is a man who now is making it clear he has nothing to do with TopCat. TCMS is an interesting org, but still more interesting: Did they hope to get in front of the coming action?

MOOTW or War Itself is coming

There can be little doubt that the intersection of US and Chinese interests (i.e. oil, gas, etc) in Africa and the existence of failed or failing states will give ample opportunity for somebody to intervene. Between the stories of TopCat Marine Security trying to vie for a security contract (cease and desist? come on…), the UK adding to a substantial US presence, and front-companies (which could include TopCat?) the US could do a stellar job staying up-front, out front, and public with humanitarian and other helpful aid in the region in a real battle for hearts and minds. The Chinese are doing it, we need to do publically do it. This is espcially important as armed groups may be preparing major offensive:

Unidentified armed groups in the north of Central African Republic (CAR) may be preparing a major offensive, the African Union said in a report issued on Thursday.

SAS-SBS joining US Forces in Africa

Things are heating up in Africa. See this story from The Herald:

THE UK’s special forces are being deployed to Djibouti, the impoverished state which dominates the entrance to the Red Sea, to join US Delta Force commandos in the hunt for al Qaeda training camps along the Horn of Africa.

Some 2000 Marines are already there backing up US Special Forces.

Rove Energy Corporation Limited

Somaliland_maplarge_1The blogosphere is increasingly used to incite and investigate and this recent comment is a further example of this growing use of the new pamphleteers to influence events. The region in question has obvious links to other disucssions on this site (see the Somalia category and take your pick of readings).

How does the South African Ophir Corporation has recently announced a 75% stake in the Rova Energy Corporation figure into all of this? The maritime diplomacy of the Chinese, Yemini fields accessed from Somalia, and the general lawlessness of the region certainly makes for some interesting reading. More investigation on this surely to come. Comments, leads?